Last year, one of my personal projects was to go cruelty free and vegan where possible when it comes to my beauty products. I’ve swapped Clinique for The Body Shop, fallen for Sand&Sky’s face mask, and become a regular at Superdrug. But now I want to tackle something else – waste.
Some of you may know that, as my day job, I work in regulatory affairs for a medical company. As part of that, because we’re a small team, we also handle the environmental side of things. We’re certified to ISO 14001, which means we have goals to be more environmentally conscious, and we also have to submit our packaging waste and WEEE data to the relevant authority. We have internal training on the environment, and what we can do to reduce our impact as a company, as well as individuals. This means that I have to be more environmentally aware, and that awareness spills from my professional life into my personal life.
Confession: my partner has always been better at recycling and reducing waste than I am. Being a cynic, I don’t trust our local council to put much effort into recycling. Also, it can be hella confusing. With all the revelations about just how insidious plastic is, I’m now second guessing everything I put into the recycling bin.
The first goal is to reduce. It seems like everything comes packaged in plastic, especially from the supermarket. When the 5p plastic bag surcharge came in, it made us a bit more conscious of how wasteful they can be. Our plastic bags are always reused as bin bags for our bathroom bin, so that’s one plus point, but they do ultimately end up in landfill. So we bought some Bags For Life, and remember to use them around 95% of the time, thus reducing the amount of plastic bags we use.
Another thing we’re implementing is switching to a milkman. Yep, the old fashioned milkman of years gone by, who delivers milk to your front door in glass bottles. Living so close to London, I thought we’d have a plethora of options, but I could actually only find a few milkmen in our area. We’ve gone with Tim Davis Dairies of Braintree in Essex, who will kindly deliver five pints of organic milk to us in glass bottles. (They also take the bottles away to be reused.) We used to order 4 pints from the supermarket every week, plus one or two singular pints for me to take to work. So that’s a huge amount of plastic gone from our weekly shop.
One question that must be asked: Is it more expensive? The simple answer is yes. 1 pint of organic milk from Sainsburys cost 65p. From the milkman, it’s 85p. We’re in the fortunate position to be able to afford that difference, but not everyone is. Until supermarkets wake up and stop producing so much bloody waste, some people have no option but to continue with the cheaper, arguably more convenient supermarkets.
One thing that does actually work out cheaper is Who Gives A Crap, an Australian company that delivers bulk packs of toilet paper to your front door. At first glance, it feels like you’re paying out more, but the toilet paper lasts so much longer, so it does work out cheaper than the supermarket equivalent (recycled paper). It’s super soft, recycled paper, and they use no plastic in their packaging. They also donate 50% of their profits to building toilets. Doing good definitely feels good.
The next step is to reuse. I do have several reusable Starbucks cups that I take to work and in the car. But these cups are too big to fit into our coffee machine, so what do I do? I use a non-recylable cup to put into the machine, which gets thrown away. Well done, me.
To combat this, I’ve bought a KeepCup, a smaller glass cup that will fit inside the damn machine at work, and is easier to transport as it has a lid that closes (though it’s not fully leak-proof). Hopefully this will mean I’ll pop it in my bag every time I go out, and stop using disposable coffee cups.
I have OCD, and part of my OCD is a fear of germs. I don’t like eating off other people’s cutlery, or using their mugs. It makes me feel ill. So going out to eat can be a struggle. One huge factor for me are straws. I hate drinking out of glasses that hundreds of others have touched, so I always get a straw. Which is bad. I’ve bought a set of glass straws from Amazon, which are actually really nice to use, and they’re easy to clean. I just need to find a way of keeping one in my bag without it getting mucky.
The final option is to recycle. As mentioned above, our local council doesn’t recycle everything, so you have to be careful what you put in your bin. They do recycle most plastic, glass, and cardboard, so they’re my first port of call, but I’ve signed up to Terracycle in order to properly recycle beauty and household products, like those pesky packs face wipes come in. There are various other recycling schemes on Terracycle, but those two are ones we could definitely do with using.
But is this enough? I’m always of the mind that we can only do what we can do, as individuals. Money, time, and circumstances always factors into these things. There are also some things I want to tackle, but I don’t know how. Receipts, clingfilm, teabags (!). The list feels endless, and you can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed.
The truth is that a lot of these things have to be sorted out by the manufacturers, and by supermarkets. Stop wrapping bananas in plastic, for fuck sake. Start investing in reusable, sustainable packaging. Stop using plastic in absolutely everything. Coffee shops, start recycling your cups (like Costa does), or just stop using disposable ones. Greater minds than mine can come up with decent solutions, I’m sure of it. Let’s make the environment a priority.